Pressing ahead with joyful expectation
What are your hopes and dreams as you press into 2022? I expect that for many of us our hope is for a much better year than 2021. I know that so many had hoped that 2021 would be a significant improvement on 2020 when the Covid pandemic first hit. But after almost two full years of endless challenges surrounding Covid, the shut-downs, the restrictions, the vaccine rollout, and mask-wearing, the endless zoom meetings etc, I suspect that many were really hoping that 2022 would signal the return to ‘normal’ (whatever that was)! But then Omicron….
And maybe you’re thinking, “Oh no, here we go again!” I saw my GP the other day and he told me that the main presenting issue for most of his patients at the moment relates to mental health issues. Given the kinds of physical, emotional, social, and financial pressures many of us have been facing this is not at all surprising. It’s hard when your business is all but shut down, when you can’t visit loved ones in aged care, when you or those close to you have been severely hit by Covid. Few of us don’t know someone who has been struck down with this virus.
But, as I’ve kicked off the college new year, I’ve been reminded again of Paul’s wonderful testimony as he wrote to the Philippians. In chapter 3 he’d been outlining all of the ‘outward signs of success’ that might have looked great on his resume. But, as he looked at these things, he says they are just like rubbish compared to the enormous blessing of simply knowing Christ. Then he says, “I want to know [keep on growing in my knowledge] of Christ” (Phil 3:10). After 42 years of marriage, I can say, the journey of ‘knowing’ the one you love only keeps on going and has the potential of becoming even more fabulous. As Paul looked to the future, he basically said, this is my number one goal and ambition. I really want to know Jesus better and better. Not a bad New Year’s resolution, I suggest.
But then he says something else, which I think is great. He basically says in v.13, no matter what has been in the past (my past successes or failures or perhaps even past challenges), I’m prepared to forget all those things, so I can “press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” In fact, in the previous verse, he says that he wants to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [him].” Paul believed so clearly that “we have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). And come-what-may, Paul didn’t for a moment want to miss out on allowing Jesus to fulfill in him and through him, the wonderful purposes and plans that God had in store for him.
What a marvellous way to embrace the challenge of another year of life, love, and service! Were we to embrace Paul’s perspective on the future, we should be able to press into the new year with joyful expectation, being confident that “He who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).
Rev. Dr Peter Francis